Wheels of misfortune

Like a kid on a wrecked bicycle, one Tennessee Vol is determined to move forward on two bad wheels.

In spite of two bum knees, senior defensive tackle Wes Brown has no plans to hold back in Saturday's season opener vs. Western Kentucky.

"No, I can't pace myself," he said. "I've got to go out each day and give it all I've got. That's what the team deserves, and that's what I've got to go out and give 'em. I can't go out and play half speed. You've got to give it all you've got."

In four years as a Vol Brown has never given any less. He played all of last fall on one injured knee, so playing this fall on two doesn't faze him. His primary goal is simply to make it through the season.

"No doubt," he said. "I did it last year with one bad knee - I made it through the season. Good Lord willing, I'll make it through this year. Whatever I need to do is what I'll do."

To help him make it through the season, the Vol staff will limit Brown's snaps by resting him on a regular basis.

"We're going to rotate the whole defensive line but especially Wes," head coach Lane Kiffin said. "Wes has not been able to practice very much, so to expect him to go 75 plays wouldn't work."

Whatever the staff decides is fine with Brown, the ultimate team player.

"The coaches, I'm sure, have a plan for it," he said. "If I'm hurting, of course, I'm going to come out. I'm not going to be out there limping around. Whatever the coaches' plan is, I'm going to carry it out. It's not up to me; it's up to them. If it was up to me I'd be out there as much as I can."

Twenty snaps is realistic. Thirty could be workable. Forty might be a possibility.

"I think so, Lord willing," Brown said. "I'll be out there as much as I can. I can't be out there half-speed, though. It wouldn't be fair to everybody on the bench or the defense as a team if I'm just going half speed."

Recognizing how much pain he's pushing through, Tennessee teammates admire Brown for his toughness and perseverance. He's clearly a role model for the younger Vols.

"I try to be ... anything I can do," he said. "Whether it's pushing through a practice or pushing through a game, if guys know I'm hurting and see me getting through, and that helps them get through, that's great. I try to be a role model any way I can."

Brown sat out probably half of Tennessee's preseason drills to rest his aching knees. Although the pain rarely subsides, sometimes it's worse than others.

"It's a constant ache but every now and then I have a sharp pain that will hit me," he said. "That's when I know it (damage) is there. In most cases it will go away in the next four or five plays when I sit out ... sometimes it will last the entire day. It just depends.

"I tell the trainers, 'Let's do whatever we can do to get me back on the field.' It's my last year, and I want to be out there as much as I can."

In addition to troublesome knees, Brown is handicapped by being undersized for a defensive tackle. The 6-4, 270-pounder is tough as nails, however, and that enables him to overcome most obstacles.

"I can't think about the pain. I've got to keep pushing," he said. "I don't have time to be out there thinking about how bad I'm hurting. I know other guys out there are struggling, too, with something hurting.

"You've got to put yourself aside and think about what's best for the team."

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